The scandal that never was

Back in the corridors of Lintas in Sydney, I must recount the tale of the great bribery scandal that never was. It came about because, as I was given to do, I had bypassed the Agency In-House Producer. I had more than once selected a team to produce a commercial, after correctly gaining three quotes, without going through channels. The company I chose was The Film Group. It was run by a complex character who became a great friend, although our friendship was never the reason for my choice of his organisation. I worked with many film companies and always enjoyed the experience. It was horses for courses. Charlie Peters simply, to my mind, brought together the best there was and never cut corners in seeking the finest result, often ignoring his own bottom line. He was, and is, a scrupulously honest man. Most loved working for The Film Group. It may well have been the bouillabaisse that Charlie himself created for Film Crew lunches on set or location. Little wonder Charlie went on to buy The Grape Escape (and there are so many more stories the memory of that establishment brings back.)

Charlie Peters was not the most patient of men and this trait extended to the gardens at his home. If a tree seemed to be taking too long to grow Charlie would simply replace it with a bigger one of the same breed. And, on one occasion, this led to him bringing a Chinese Elm of reasonable proportions to our home in St Ives, where we planted it on the front lawn. An innocent enough exchange among friends one would have thought. However, Mr In-House Agency Producer seized on the gift as evidence of a bribe, a tree bribe, and this started one hell of a ruckus at Lintas involving both myself and a fellow writer, a lady of some talent and certainly more talent than our accuser. The whole sad affair was dragged before the Most Senior Suit of the day, a very pleasant Frenchman, who very quickly dismissed the claim of In-House Agency Producer and delivered him an impressive Gallic bollocking while he was at it.

Not much of a story in itself but within a week the fellow writer and myself and the Agency Producer were waiting in the board room for the Production House to arrive. In walked, you guessed it, Charlie and his crew. Greetings all around and Charlie asks for a moment before the meeting begins. He hands me a small parcel. It contains a packet of seeds. To his credit even our accuser joined in the laughter.

This was not my first run in with an In-House Agency Producer. There was another time, at McCann, when I managed to bring a production all the way to completion without ever giving it an obligatory key number. This led to a classic Catch 22. The Agency Producer, known by some as The Eyebrow, refused to accept that the commercial had been made. It simply didn’t exist. Because, if it did exist, it would boast a key number, wouldn’t it? And, unless he accepted its existence the Media Department would never be able to schedule the thing. It took some time, and an apology from me, before a late entry key number was grudgingly approved and the cloak of invisibility was lifted from a rather cute spot for Nestle where an attractive young lady, whose name was something like Sunny, spoke of her little discovery, “not an important one but interesting”, that Nestles Instant Coffee mixed beautifully with cold milk for a very refreshing drink.

I was only ever offered one bribe in all my time in the industry. An Independent Producer picked me up for lunch one day. It was acceptable to be taken to lunch, to be introduced to the host’s company and the benefits it might hold for the lunch guest. However, on the way to the lunch said individual detoured to a marine showroom where there were some very smart boats on display. And it was made very clear to me that one of these might well appear in my driveway, were he to be granted priority access to any budgets for television that I might influence. I said that I could not now have lunch with him and asked to be driven straight back to the Agency, a large one. For the record, he didn’t last long in the industry but went on to be well known and very successful in another sphere.


2 replies
  1. Helen Lawson
    Helen Lawson says:

    I have just been working on a voluntary committee and I have very quickly decided that I am not working full-time to benefit a few as decisions seem to be made from the top and the opportunity to vote or express opinions on such issues are never offered. The committee members are only there to work for the “exec.” I have stepped down at my first opportunity.
    This side of committee appears much like the business hierarchy mentioned in the story.

    I enjoyed reading this Peter.

    • peter maxwell
      peter maxwell says:

      Even the word committee makes me shudder Helen. Your time is much better spent, anyway, where your considerable talents lie. Keep on painting


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